Court Refuses To Grant Bail To Illegal Arms Importers
The Federal High sitting in Lagos today rejected the bail applications filed by five men ,who allegedly imported 661 pump-action rifles into the country without lawful authority.
The trial judge, Justice Ayokunle Faji, said he would rather grant the case accelerated hearing than release the accused persons on bail, in view of the severity of the allegations levelled against them.
The defendants, Mahmud Hassan, Oscar Okafor, Donatus Achinulo, Matthew Okoye, said to be at large, and Salihu Danjuma, had on Monday applied to the court seeking to be released on bail pending the determination of the case.
Their lawyers – Yakubu Galadima, Godwin Okaka, Olumide Oyewole and Adamu Ibrahim , had urged the court to release their clients on bail, promising that they would not abscond, but make themselves available for trial.
But the prosecuting counsel from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, K.A. Fagbemi, vehemently opposed the defendants’ bail applications, saying it would be too risky for them to be released on bail.
Fagbemi, who noted that one of the five accused persons was still at large, argued that it was not even healthy for the court to release the other four on bail as their lives might be at risk.
“He’s still out there. He could be a risk to their own lives. It’s one of the grounds that the defendants should not be granted bail for their own good,” Fagbemi had said.
Justice Faji agreed with the prosecution in his judgment and refused the defendants’ bail applications.
The accused persons had been arraigned on June 14 for allegedly importing 661 pump-action rifles into the country without lawful authority.
They were arraigned on eight counts bordering on conspiracy, importation of prohibited firearms, forgery, uttering of forged documents, and bribery.
In the charges, the AGF said the accused persons brought 661 pump-action rifles into the country from Turkey through the Apapa Port in Lagos, using a 40-feet container, which they falsely claimed contained steel doors.
To facilitate the illegal importation, the accused allegedly forged a number of documents including a bill of lading, a Form M and a Pre-Arrival Assessment Report.
According to the prosecution, in order to evade payment of Customs duty, the accused allegedly forged a bill of lading issued at Istanbul on January 9, 2017, falsely claiming that it was issued at Shanghai, China.
In the forged bill of lading, they allegedly filled “steel door” as the content of the container instead of rifles.
They were also said to have allegedly offered a bribe of N400,000 to an official of the Nigeria Customs Service attached to the Federal Operative Unit to influence the said officer not to conduct a “hundred per cent search on the 40-feet container with number PONU 825914/3.”
The prosecution also alleged that the first accused, Hassan, corruptly gave N1million to government officials at the Apapa Port in order to prevent the search of the container by Customs officials.
In the last count, the Federal Government alleged that the defendants had between 2012 and 2016 illegally imported several double-barreled shotguns, pump-action rifles and single-barreled shotguns into the country through Lagos.
The offences were said to be contrary to sections 1(2)(c), 1(14) (a)(i) and 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014.
But upon their arraignment on June 14, the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.